The 1962 Democratic primary for governor was the closest primary election for a major Maine office of the last half-century.

It was narrowly won by Maynard Dolloff, former Maine State Grange master. For both Dolloff and his defeated opponent, Waterville’s Richard Dubord, the primary was but a forerunner of eventful things to come. Here’s a profile of what lay ahead for both of them.

Dolloff and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Dolloff’s primary win was a precursor to an even closer November election against Gov. John Reed. Dolloff’s 483-vote loss out of nearly 300,000 cast would, like the primary that preceded it, be subject to a recount.

As with elections today, a prime issue was the economy: the GOP incumbent Reed defending it, with Dolloff assailing it as stagnating. The candidates also sparred about a tightening of the eligibility for unemployment benefits, a factor in an endorsement by organized labor — then a more potent factor in Maine politics — of the Democratic candidate.

About two weeks before the election, however, the campaign was jarred by the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union over the revelation of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

News events about what for a time seemed like the brink of a world war pre-empted voter interest in the Maine campaign. Both candidates curtailed active campaigning in most of the final days.

As with the campaign of any challenger taking on a better-known incumbent, sustaining voter attention before an election can be crucial. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a probable factor in Dolloff’s loss.

The crisis shifted the spotlight to Reed, who as governor helped supervise an emergency civil defense operating center in the basement of the State Office building. Reed also mounted plans to move various government facilities to underground locations.

Many races on the ballot throughout the state that year were subject to recounts, leading GOP Chairman David Nichols to observe:

“The glib answer is to say that today voters are attracted to personalities rather than motivated by party loyalty. Is this not partly due, however, to our failure to clearly draw the line between the parties? We must strive for a more positive image with which each voter can associates himself. Stronger emphasis should be placed upon those principles which have traditionally distinguished our Party.”

Nichols would not have to wait long for both a starker choice and more resounding voter mandate. Just two years later, President Lyndon Johnson led a Democratic landslide over a GOP ticket headed by Sen. Barry Goldwater, a campaign well known for the striking ideological differences of the two major parties.

The 1964 election also swept Democrats into control of the Maine Legislature for the first time since 1914. That Legislature elected Dolloff as commissioner of Agriculture, a post he would keep for more than 10 years. Dolloff then went to Washington, first as an OSHA consultant and then as an assistant Secretary of Agriculture.

Retiring to Waldoboro in 1981, Dolloff resumed active interest in the Grange until his death at age 85 in 1999.

Dubord and the Muskie Campaign

Dubord’s rendezvous with major office also came with the 1964 elections, when the Legislature chose him to be state attorney general.

Acclaimed as a hands-on team player, Dubord was one of the last AGs to take the lead as the state’s in-court prosecutor of homicide cases.

The 1966 restoration of GOP control of the Legislature spelled the end of Dubord’s days as AG but an even-wider horizon opened up to him with the nomination of his longtime Waterville colleague, Edmund Muskie, as Hubert Humphrey’s running mate in 1968.

That fall, Dubord did advance work for Muskie, traveling throughout the country for the Maine senator as Muskie was heralded as one of the more reassuring voices in an otherwise turbulent campaign.

Dubord was slated for an even more significant assignment in Muskie’s run-up to the 1972 presidential nomination — a campaign in which Muskie was for more than two and half years the leading Democratic contender. Dubord’s unexpected death in early 1970 at age 48 was a major setback to Muskie. As longtime Muskie aide Don Nicoll explained recently in an email:

“We had just completed arrangements for Dick to join the presidential nomination campaign as Ed’s traveling aide when he died. I have always regarded that as one of the most serious blows to the campaign. Ed needed a good friend with him on those forays around the country, one who could serve as an adviser, sounding board, loyal confidant, on-the-scene observer and reporter for the campaign managers, and a cheerful and stimulating companion. … I performed many of those functions in 1968 as campaign manager with him, but I could not — for a variety of reasons — provide the ‘lift’ that Dick offered in the confounding climate of a national primary campaign.”

Muskie would have been a stronger candidate with Dubord at his side and might well have won the nomination. If he had, he would have been a more centrist alternative to President Richard Nixon than was George McGovern and would have had a stronger opportunity to prevail in the election.

Had Muskie prevailed, even if Nixon won the presidency, the Watergate break-in might not have happened and Nixon would not have been impeached or resigned.

The course of modern American history might well have been dramatically different.

Paul H. Mills is a Farmington attorney well known for his analyses and historical understanding of public affairs in Maine. He can be reached by e-mail: [email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: